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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 7:25am
CommentInsight & Opinion
LEADER

Hong Kong risks losing out to rivals without a third airport runway

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 June, 2014, 5:27am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 June, 2014, 5:27am

The arguments for and against a third airport runway have been so well rehearsed by supporters and critics that they risk becoming clichés. The debate boils down to weighing the economic gains against social and environmental costs. While pursuing competitiveness and growth is unobjectionable, concerns about marine life and pollution are not to be ignored. The question is how to minimise the impact without holding back development.

This is what the Airport Authority is doing. In a renewed attempt to meet the standards laid down by the law, the authority has submitted a revised environmental impact assessment report. The study concluded that the project would not have an adverse impact on residual air quality. To mitigate noise pollution, residents nearby will be given window insulation and air conditioning. But the report admitted that the habitat of white dolphins would be destroyed by 650 hectares of land reclamation. To make up for the damage, a 2,400-hectare marine park would be created nearby.

While these measures can help to mitigate the impact, they are unlikely to satisfy the environmentally conscious. They argue that the dolphins will not return once their habitat has been destroyed. It is now up to the government and its advisers to decide whether to give it the green light.

Our world-class international airport at Chek Lap Kok probably would not have materialised had our environmental awareness been as strong as today. Thanks to the vision and foresight of our policymakers two decades ago, Hong Kong's edge as a regional aviation hub has been further enhanced. Back then, the environmental impact caused by construction of a brand new airport was, undoubtedly, much worse than building a runway. Thankfully, we didn't let the adverse impact stand in the way of the project. It would be unthinkable if passengers and cargo were still flying out of Kai Tak, which would look almost third world by today's standards.

If the airport is a vital pillar of growth and competitiveness, there is no reason to clip its wings of expansion. The need for a third runway was floated as early as 2003. Despite an estimated price tag of over HK$136 billion, which would make it the costliest endeavour in the city's history, it is estimated it would bring benefits worth HK$912 billion. Singapore, Dubai and London are all aboard to expand their airports. We stand to lose out if we don't let our vision fly.

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This article is now closed to comments

r6b
xyz asks " Is there no better use of such a gigantic sum of public funds? Like ... hospitals"
Its totally obscene that what is supposedly Asia's world class city, some pubic hospital patents are forced to wait up to 10 years for a simple 10 minute cataract operation.
So - yes - there are definitely opportunities, putting this money to good use, improving HK citizen's quality of life.
sjfore
It's not that the dolphins "will not return". The dolphins will die, full stop. Thanks for the obfuscating euphemism, SCMP.
The economic arguments stated below also make sense.
dynamco
we already have double he tourists than the whole of Thailand
we have many more narrow body jet landings than before moving less pax
airfreight is down since Foxconn et al moved north hence the 'need' for a white elephant vehicle only bridge from Zhuhai that has no international destinations and which is 55% operated by HKAA
the sad thing is, the DAB is now in the Govt's voting pocket along with the Func Con legislators so there is no 'power to the people' any more here
The place is completely fkd
rpasea
Good. Let other cities pay the cost for what is really a subsidy to the airlines (read Cathay Pacific) as the third runway is for transit passengers (people who neither live nor visit here). China has plenty of land for airports and already has facilities at SZ and GZ that could be used for any transit passengers especially those going to China. Govt on the one hand claims the need for closer integration with the PRD but the HKAA wants to compete instead of cooperate with the other airports in the PRD.

BTW, has anyone uncovered who authorized the taxpayer subsidy to the HKAA of a private golf course next to their offices at CLK?

lamlm38
"benefits worth HK$912 billion".. to the writer, why not breakdown the benefits for people to see rather than trying to shove it down people's throat :)
Just curious, instead of building a Mega Sport Complex at the old KaiTak Airport why not refurbish it to be another airport.. wont it be cheaper that way?
Will.I.Am
Anything HK needs, someone will find a reason to protest against it.
mjqhkg
Nope. Jobs for the boys, that's all this is.
tubbataha
1."Singapore, Dubai and London are all aboard to expand their airports. We stand to lose out if we don't let our vision fly." What these cities do is not relevant to HK - we are not competing to attract landings from them.
2. The capacity constraint is not the runway but the air traffic control system with 4 airports sharing the same airspace and China's air border complicating approaches.
3. "While pursuing competitiveness and growth is unobjectionable," ! Excess growth can be very objectionable - compound growth cannot be sustained in a finite environment - and HK's 1,000 sq km are very finite.
4. Even with half an eye on approaching 'tightening' in the oil market the planners should see that air traffic demand is likely to be forced down below current levels before this project is completed.
donniemcm
Pff again another stunt to have some pity from the public.
Hope this won't work ...
Camel
Better no 3rd Runway. Let all flights be redirected to the new Shenzhen Airport. Time is ticking for HK. Let us run down this city as it is full of **** anyway.

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